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Argentine Ship Fires On Fishing Boats

May 29, 1986

PORT STANLEY, Falkland Islands (AP) _ An Argentine warship fired on two Taiwanese fishing vessels Wednesday, setting one ablaze, killing one crewman and injuring three, a Taiwanese official said.

In Buenos Aires, the Argentine coast guard issued a communique saying that its cutter Prefecto Derbes had fired warning shots with its 12.7mm machinegun across the bow of one ship, and directly at the second, after they were caught poaching in Argentine waters.

The communique, issued early Thursday, said that one Taiwanese crewman had died, ″apparently of a heart attack.″

It said another man was missing and had not been found despite a search.

Tsu-Kang Lei, who represents Taiwan squid fishermen in these disputed British-owned islands in the South Atlantic, said the Argentine vessel also chased a third Taiwanese boat during the incident, which occurred just outside the 150-mile exclusion zone set by Britain.

The Taiwanese crew of the blazing squid trawler, Chain Der 3, took to lifeboats after their ship was fired on. The Argentine vessel reported in a radio message heard in Port Stanley that it picked up 22 fishermen, and that three had minor injuries.

The Argentine coast guard communique said the Derbes was headed for Puerto Deseado, Argentina, with the surviving crewmen aboard.

Lei said the Argentine ship had warned another Taiwanese vessel not to approach the Chain Der 3 because refrigeration machinery on board could explode.

In Buenos Aires, the DYN news agency reported that the Argentine vessel had reporting sinking the Taiwanese craft. DYN said the body of one crewman was pulled from the water and that another was given up for lost.

Earlier Wednesday, the official news agency Telam, quoting an unidentified Foreign Ministry source as saying the incident occurred 120 miles off Argentina and within its territorial waters.

″This (the encounter) ratifies the decision of the government to defend the natural resources of the Argentine sea,″ it quoted the source as saying.

Lei, who monitored radio messages between the vessels, said the Chain Der 3 was hit by fire after it refused to accompany the warship to an Argentine port for allegedly fishing inside Argentina’s declared 200-mile fishing limit.

He said the Argentine captain gave the crew a 10-minute ultimatum to sail west for Argentina or be fired on.

″You have 10 minutes,″ Lei quoted the Argentine captain as saying. ″At 4:20 p.m., we begin to fire. Please make clear your bridge.″

Lei said the Chain Der 3 then issued a Mayday call, saying the vessel was sinking and that the crew had taken to lifeboats.

A British warship offered to help rescue the Taiwanese crew and asked permission to enter the Argentine-claimed waters, but the Argentine ship appeared to ignore the radio messages, Lei said.

The Argentine ship earlier fired on another Taiwanese vessel, the Chii-Fu 6, and the crew escaped injury by hiding in the engine room, Lei said.

He said crew members of another Taiwanese vessel, the Yu-Lian-Far, told him by radio telephone that shots from the Argentine ship wrecked the mast and the radio room of the Chii-Fu 6.

The Chii-Fu 6 then fled east toward the Falkland Islands, leaving the Argentine vessel to focus its attention on another fishing boat, the Chian Tah, which it also was unable to catch, Lei said.

It then turned to the slower Chain Der 3, which put down anchor in heavy seas when the Argentine ship came alongside it about 175 miles northwest of the Falklands and 228 miles east of the Argentine mainland, Lei said.

After refusing to accompany the warship, the Taiwanese vessel attempted to flee toward the Falklands and appeared to come under intermittent fire over a 50-minute period before being badly damaged, Lei said.

Earlier Tuesday, the Defense Ministry in London said its forces in the Falklands had picked up civilian radio signals from Taiwanese fishing vessels saying three vessels had been harrassed, ″one was fired upon and one was arrested.″

The ministry refused immediate comment on the sinking.

In the last two months, a South Korean and a Polish vessel have been apprehended by Argentine naval or coast guard ships in Argentine-declared waters and escorted to Argentine ports where their squid catches were confiscated.

The Argentine ship chased the Chii-Fu 6 for more than two hours before opening fire at about 7:30 a.m., Lei said.

Lei, a representative of the Taiwan Squid Fishery Development Board, said the Chii-Fu 6 was one of 55 Taiwanese vessels operating in rich fishing waters off the Falklands.

The exclusion zone was established by Britain after the 1982 war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, which are populated by some 1,800 people, most of them of British descent. The Argentine navy has boarded fishing trawlers from several countries operating in the waters between the Falklands and Argentina.

Britain and Argentina fought a three-month war over the Falklands in 1982 after Argentina sent troops and captured the British colony.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dispatched a naval task force to the South Atlantic and recaptured the archipelago off Argentina’s coast in a 74-day campaign that left 255 Britons and 712 Argentinians dead.

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